Recipients of the 2019 Sunstar/RDH Award of Distinction announced

May 7, 2019
Since beginning in 2002, the program has recognized 125 exemplary dental hygienists. Read more about this year's winners: Rafael Rondon, Amber Auger, Susan Jeffries, and Crystal Spring.

Four dental hygienists will be recognized for their service to dentistry and dental patients during a ceremony for the 2019 Sunstar/RDH Award of Distinction on August 1st in Grapevine, Texas.

This year, the program received over 100 applications. Since beginning in 2002, the program has recognized 125 exemplary dental hygienists, including this year’s winners. These dental hygiene professionals have followed their passions and made a significant difference with their expertise and dedication.

The four recipients were chosen by a panel of judges coordinated by Sunstar Americas and RDH magazine. The ceremony will be hosted during the RDH Under One Roof conference at the Gaylord Texan Resort & Convention Center.

The 2019 recipients of the Sunstar/RDH Award of Distinction are:

  • Rafael Rondon, BS, RDH, Kissimmee, Florida
  • Amber Auger, MPH, RDH, Somerville, Massachusetts
  • Susan Jeffries, BSDH, RDH, Annapolis, Maryland
  • Crystal Spring, RDH, LAP, Bozeman, Montana

“Since 2002, the Award of Distinction has taken the opportunity to identify dental hygienists who have embraced change and made a difference on a broad spectrum,” said Jackie Sanders, manager of professional relations at Sunstar. “This year, these selected individuals will join 121 previous award recipients, becoming members of a distinguished group of dental hygiene professionals. We are impressed with the achievements of these honorees and proud to honor and recognized all Sunstar/RDH Award of Distinction recipients.”

Fifteen years ago, Rondon started visiting local schools to give presentations on prevention. He believed in starting early to inform “our little patients” about oral disease. He educates young students on home care and nutrition that will help prevent and control oral disease. He has also worked with a children’s ministry for 18 years, and many of the children he has mentored have gone on to be dental professionals because of his influence. After these projects and being a regional hygiene mentor for 19 years, Rondon has positively impacted so many in the dental professional and wider communities.

Auger seeks to empower the dental hygiene profession, while still making a positive impact with her own patients and with mission work. Through her involvement with RDH publications and her work as a consultant and speaker, she has helped her peers to stay up-to-date on the latest information important to their clinical work, and importantly, to stay excited about the profession and achieve long-term career success. Auger has coordinated several dental mission trips to underserved areas in Nicaragua, Africa, the Dominican Republic, and other places. She takes special care to understand her patients’ overall lifestyles and oral care needs, and to build a relationship with them.

Jeffries’ nomination highlighted the positive and groundbreaking impact she has had on the mental health of dental professionals, confronting taboo and difficult topics such as workplace bullying, mental health, depression, and suicide. By connecting dental professionals seeking support with each other in the form of online groups, and speaking candidly about her own mental health, Jeffries is a powerful advocate for change. She has also used her skills as a natural teacher and leader in her business, Your Vivacious Practice. She excels at improving team morale and finding ways the business could function better.

Spring’s passion about access to care lead her to create Smiles Across Montana, a nonprofit dedicated to ending oral health disparities in her home state. With another hygienist (Cara Reck, BS, RDH, LAP), she started this nonprofit with just one portable unit and chair and a few supplies—the journey hasn’t always been easy, but their belief in their mission kept them moving forward. Critically, Smiles Across Montana is also actively working with and mentoring other hygienists who want to recreate its model.

All four recipients will be profiled in more detail in the September 2019 issue of RDH magazine.